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Liberals facing stiff challenges in two Toronto byelections

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals are facing stiff byelection challenges in two Toronto ridings normally considered safe for the governing party.

With 91 of 143 polls reporting, Liberal Ya’ara Saks is leading in York Centre, but only 90 votes  ahead of Conservative Julius Tiangson 

Broadcaster Marci Ien has a slightly more comfortable lead for the Liberals in Toronto Centre, but the Green party’s newly minted leader, Annamie Paul, is nipping at her heels.

With 70 of 144 polls reporting, Ien has captured 41 per cent of the votes, just over 800 votes ahead of Paul, whose recent elevation to the Green party’s helm has clearly boosted her profile and her electability.

Paul ran a distant fourth in Toronto Centre during last fall’s general election with just seven pre cent of the votes.

The byelections mark the first electoral test of the Liberal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul had urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to postpone the byelections, arguing that it was unsafe to send voters to the polls in the midst of the second wave of the deadly coronavirus.

Toronto Centre was left vacant by former finance minister Bill Morneau’s abrupt resignation in August amid reports of tensions between him and Trudeau over massive spending on pandemic relief.

York Centre was left vacant last month by Liberal MP Michael Levitt’s resignation to become CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

Both ridings are longtime Liberal strongholds, where the Liberals won more than 50 per cent of the vote in last fall’s election. But support for the party slumped elsewhere across the country, leaving Trudeau with a minority of seats in the House of Commons.

Toronto Centre has been held by the Liberals for decades, including by former interim party leaders Bob Rae and Bill Graham.

Although long considered one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, York Centre fell to the Conservatives in 2011 before Levitt wrested it back in 2015.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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